Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner joined federal, state and local officials in cutting the ribbon to open the Defense Information System Agency (DISA) Global Operations Command Facility Thursday morning at Scott Air Force Base.
Rauner highlighted the importance of the federal, state and local collaboration in this investment for Illinois.
“Today is an example of what happens when all levels of governments come together,” he said. “Together, we have built a centralized facility that will create jobs to grow the area economy while investing in our infrastructure to keep our country safe.”
This $100 million investment is a significant win for Illinois taxpayers, Rauner said.
During construction alone an average of 85 workers per day from approximately 10 local subcontractors were employed, he said.
The unveiling of this 164,000-square-foot DISA Global complex is the culmination of a decade of planning and three years of construction. The facility houses the largest cyber operations center in the United States and provides centralized housing for all of the 950-plus DISA Global Joint Military, Civilian and Contractor Workforce.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said the United States is preparing for several wars, one of which is ongoing. While hot wars involving fighters. bombers, supply aircraft and airplanes on the tarmac are more commonly recognized, there is another war that’s going on every day.
“That is a cyber war,” Durbin said. “We are being attacked constantly by individual hackers, nations and others that are trying to get into America’s intelligence system and our Internet networks.”
“What we have here at Scott Air Force Base is the first line of defense for the U.S. when it comes to that cyber war,” he said. “We are on the cutting edge of national security as we look at the building behind us.”
Durbin said those who wonder about the future of Scott Air Force Base need to realize it’s vital to national defense.
“We are hoping we can continue to develop it, find new missions that are consistent with it to make sure Scott Air Force Base and the great men and women who serve here continue to protect this nation,” he said.
Good for the economy
DISA provides centralized housing for all of the 950-plus DISA Global Joint Military, Civilian and Contractor Workforce.
Durbin said the jobs are good for the area, as a lot of the jobs are filled locally. Some are jobs filled by people coming across the river.
“And the opportunity grants for expansion. There needs more to be done. This is a major undertaking,” Durbin said. “When we were briefed on this in classified meetings, they gave scenarios that are scary and worrisome. There are people who are trying to break down our Internet system, to invade and hack them, and steal our secrets and find ways to compromise the security of this nation. The men and women who are working here are fighting them every minute of every day.”
800 million emails a month
Lt. Gen. Alan Lynn, the DISA director, toured the facility for the first time Thursday morning
“It is truly incredible,” he said.
Lynn said in terms of scope of work, DISA inspects 800 million emails that come through its computer network system on a monthly basis. Of those 800 million emails, only about 100 million are good, he said.
“The rest are malicious, containing malware attachments and cyber attacks,” Lynn said.
Lynn said cyber attacks started more than a few years ago.
“(But) they are just getting better at it,” he said. “We were always on the leading edge before we realized cyber attacks were starting. Now, we are keeping one step ahead of the enemy. In real time, when we find a new malware, these guys engineer a fix for it, and they have to do it very quickly and do the counter-attack for it.”
Col. Paul Craft, DISA commander, said the building is staffed by approximately 50 military people who work at the facility, 250 civilian employees and more than 650 contracted workers.
One of the biggest challenges DISA currently faces is fiber cuts. The Department of Defense has fiber that goes under the ocean, and fiber that goes throughout the United States.
“There are tens of thousands of miles of fiber. There are over 17,000 circuits across the United States,” Craft said.
On Thursday morning, there were two fiber cuts in the Washington, D.C. area, causing some outages to the operation system, Craft said.
“When that happens, we have about 10 minutes to reroute that traffic so the Pentagon or the White House or other services can be regained very quickly,” he said. “We can do it because we have this facility here.”
Before this facility, Craft said people within DISA were broken up into many organizations.
Now, all of those employees are in one integrated facility, he said.
“So we can process through problems and problem solutions and put those solutions in place in quicker fashion. This facility creates an integrated and collaborative environment in order to do that work,” Craft said.
Does DISA help soothe NGA loss?
Rauner laughed when asked if DISA helps to soothe St. Clair county’s inability to land the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency new headquarters, which was considering moving close to the DISA facility.
Instead, NGA opted to relocate into north St. Louis.
“I won’t second-guess the decision,” Rauner said. “It’s obviously disappointing. But I still think (the St. Clair site) would have been the right decision for America to have that facility expanded here. But we will deal with it as we can.”
Rauner disputed NGA’s contention that St. Louis had a superior workforce for NGA.
“We have an outstanding workforce in Illinois. We have the best in the world,” he said.
While Durbin said he disagreed with NGA’s decision, he is now moving forward.
He believes the decision will not diminish the future of Scott Air Force Base in any way.
“There are many ways we can continue to expand this mission so we can keep America safe,” he said.
He added, “This (DISA facility) is proof positive that we are on the way up here. This investment of $100 million by the federal government into this facility shows there is an investment being made for the future.”
Durbin said SAFB was chosen as the destination for DISA because there is a record of performance.
“The men and women who work here are the best,” he said. “They have proven that, time and again, they can serve our nation effectively. We have the talent pool in this area. We have dedicated military, and this is a great place to live with their families. Put it all together, it’s the right place in America.”